Is Gluten Free Right For Me?
Do you feel bloated after eating? Does your stomach hurt or do you have a sudden urge to go to the bathroom? Are you tired of having brain fog after a meal? If these scenarios are you, then the foods you are eating, specifically gluten, may be to blame. Most people can eat gluten and not have any ill effects from it while others may develop an intolerance to it. Some people can develop an auto-immune disease from a gluten intolerance which is called Celiac disease. In this blog, we will talk about what gluten is, how it affects the body, how to recognize any symptoms, when to see a doctor, foods to avoid, and why eating a gluten-free diet is essential for some.
What exactly is gluten? Gluten is a group of seed proteins that help give food their shape. It is mainly found in wheat, rye and barley and is commonly used in pastas, cereals and baked goods. So how do you know if gluten is making you feel sick? Is it something that can be eaten in small amounts or should it be avoided completely? The answers are different for everyone so use this blog as a guide and always consult with your doctor before making any dietary changes.
Gluten causes an inflammatory breakdown in the cells that line the digestive tract. Once this breakdown occurs, toxins and food particles escape from the digestive system and seep into the bloodstream. When this occurs, the body sees those particles as foreign and the immune system starts to attack.
Why does gluten affect some and not others? It’s all about genetics and environmental factors. Some aren’t affected at all, some have GI issues and others have to avoid it at all costs. Below is a list of different symptoms people may feel due to consuming gluten.
Signs of gluten intolerance: tired, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or a general feeling of being unwell. You may also experience a skin rash, headache, numbness, joint pain, anxiety, brain fog or confusion.
Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: bloating, gas or abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, headache, brain fog, neuropathy, fatigue, or joint pain.
Celiac Disease: Diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, anemia, loss of bone density, mouth ulcers, headaches, fatigue, nutritional deficiencies, nervous system injuries like balance issues, neuropathy, and cognitive impairment.
If you are experiencing abdominal discomfort or diarrhea for more than two weeks, then see your primary care physician or a gastroenterologist. If you suspect you may have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, do not make any dietary changes on your own. Talk to your doctor first and discuss ways to monitor your diet to get a definitive diagnosis.
What foods can you eat and what should you avoid? There are many natural gluten free foods that can be part of a healthy diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans, seeds, legumes and nuts in their natural, unprocessed forms
- Lean, non processed meats, fish and poultry
- Most low-fat dairy products
Grains, starches or flours that can be part of a gluten-free diet include:
- Corn — cornmeal, grits and polenta labeled gluten-free
- Gluten-free flours — rice, soy, corn, potato and bean flours
- Hominy (corn)
- Wild rice
In general, avoid the following foods unless they’re labeled as gluten-free:
- Beer, ale, porter, stout (usually contain barley)
- Bulgur wheat
- Cakes and pies
- Communion wafers
- Cookies and crackers
- French fries
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Malt, malt flavoring and other malt products (barley)
- Hot dogs and processed lunch meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces, including soy sauce (wheat)
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
- Self-basting poultry
- Soups, bouillon or soup mixes
- Vegetables in sauce
Your diet impacts you in more ways than you know, this is why it is important to only consume what your body was designed for and what it responds best to. We should feel good after we eat—if you don’t, then it’s time to look at what you’re eating. Always read ingredients so you know exactly what you are eating.
Following a gluten free diet is essential for those with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. As we mentioned in last week’s blog, if your GI system is inflamed, so is your brain. Reducing chronic inflammation is imperative for our overall health and wellness. Plus since gluten is found in so many foods high in carbs, limiting or cutting out gluten is a healthier option. If you do follow a gluten free diet, make sure you are supplementing with Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin D, Calciu, Iron, Vitamin B12, Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin.